You guys, I have a confession to make. Before today/ this recipe, I have never made a successful meringue by myself (gasp!). When people ask me what is the most difficult thing I have ever baked, I always reply “meringues”. One time my teacher actually asked me that question and she was so shocked. She told me how she has been baking meringues since the age of five and that they are the easiest things to bake ever. Anyway, long ago, I could never get the consistency right and then I realised that when you make the mixture you aren’t supposed to add all the sugar in at once. My meringues would come out as flat pancakes. Then once I perfected the consistency, I would put the oven temperature too high and land up with brown meringues, which are a no no. Other times, I wouldn’t cook them long enough and when I picked them up they would turn to soft mush in my hand, or it would be a two hour load shedding episode half way through the bake, I can go on and on. I did not give up! The first time that I made the perfect meringue was with my friend Nikki Albertyn, who at the time was studying part time patisserie. She has a very different baking style to mine. She is very precise and measures each ingredient to the exact gram. If she messes a recipe up, she will throw away what ever she has created and start again. This is very different to my methods of baking, if something goes wrong I will resort to plan B. I believe it’s called creative thinking.
What I have had to learn over time is that meringues are actually super easy to make (thanks for the foreshadowing teacher!), all you need is a little patience. Meringues need love and attention; you can’t just simply whack them in the oven and pull them out when you feel like it. They will tell you when they are ready and also when they are unsuccessful.
I’ve been waiting three hours now for these little guys to be ready and when I tasted them it was like tasting a mouthful of a good Christmas. The meringues are flavoured with a homemade spice blend, which is made up of orange zest, cardamom, cloves, star anise and cinnamon. They bring warmth to the otherwise sweet and crisp meringues. When it comes to breaking them open, their crust is crisp and crunchy, yet their inners are soft and chewy like toffee.
Makes 6 large meringues
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 tbs castor sugar
- The seeds of 6 cardamom pods
- 6 cloves
- the seeds of 2 star anise pods
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 egg whites
- 200g/ 70 ounces castor sugar
Place the orange zest into a bowl together with the castor sugar. Leave to dry out for 5-10 minutes.
In a pan over a low heat, roast the cardamom seeds, cloves, star anise seeds, and cinnamon for 2 minutes. This will bring the spices back to life.
Place all of your spice topping ingredients into a pestol and mortar or spice blender and crush until a fine golden brown mixture forms. Leave to one side.
Whisk the egg whites until soft peeks form. Slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon, add the castor sugar to the egg whites whisking vigorously. Continue until all of the castor sugar has been used up. Whisk for a further 5 minutes until stiff peeks form and you can no longer feel the grit of the sugar in the mixture.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 390 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a piece of baking paper.
Spoon heaped tablespoons of the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking paper. There is enough mixture to make 6 large meringues. Do not flatten the meringues out.
Sprinkle some of the spice topping over the top of each meringue. Using a toothpick, marble the meringue together with the spice mixture.
Place the meringues into your preheated oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 100 degrees Celsius or 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave to bake for 3 hours
For chewy on the inside meringues, leave the cooked meringues to cool in the oven. If crunchy is your thing, remove them from the oven once baked and leave to cool.